Music industry still grapples with free content

The music industry continues to struggle with consumers who just cannot resist finding music for free. And this time, the industry cannot fight back by suing grandmas and children. As reported by Macworld, free streaming services are now the chief threat to music industry revenue loss. I discuss this issue on the iCrossing Content Lab blog, including mention of an alternative revenue generation model being pursued by Island Def Jam. Happy reading.

SKECHERS + Kim Kardashian = connected branding

We live in an age where celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Ashton Kutcher have become not only powerful brands but entrepreneurs and business partners for companies such as Bebe. On the Great Finds blog (operated by my employer iCrossing), I discuss with my colleague Heather White-Laird how Kim Kardashian and iCrossing are helping SKECHERS become a more connected brand — which is to say more visible and engaging to consumers across multiple media. I hope you’ll check it out.

Got content?

I recently joined the marketing team at iCrossing, a global digital agency that builds connected brands. I’m focusing on thought leadership, influencer outreach, and sharing the company brand through social media. I’m excited at this direction in my career, and I’d also love your help.

First, a bit more about my areas of focus. Thought leadership, social media, and influencer outreach are inter-related fields. Thought leadership — usually considered the ideas an agency generates through its points of view, research, and blogs — is essential to the success of an agency. Ideas constitute the currency of our industry — and, as industry expert Michael Gass recently noted, are essential to an agency’s business.

Influencer outreach — the way we connect with bloggers and think-tanks, to cite a few examples — helps a company like iCrossing improve our thought leadership.

And of course social media enable the conversation with influencers.

I’m working with my colleagues at iCrossing to figure out a thought leadership agenda — the topics that will influence the ideas we share with you and our clients.

To give you an example of what we’re doing already: iCrossing recently published a major point of view on why brands must act like content publishers to succeed, and you can expect more about that topic. We’re blogging about a diverse range of topics such as how companies use social media to become more effective and the state of the art in search marketing.

I would love to have your input, too. What ideas would you like to see iCrossing share with the marketplace? What would make us a more useful brand to you? For instance, would you like to see PoVs on specific consumer segments like digital moms or teens? Advances in social media? Commentary on mobile marketing?

Feel free to ping me at david.deal@icrossing.com or leave a comment on this blog.

I am listening. Thank you.

Now that’s what I call superhype

Everyone stop what you’re doing and take note: Old Spice High Endurance Deodorant has a new look coming soon! I don’t know what exactly the new look is going to be, but I am sure my day will become enriched and more exciting as a result.

You say you don’t care? Well, someone at Old Spice does because I’ve been noticing the chirpy and cryptic “NEW LOOK SOON!” stickers affixed right where you can notice them up close and personal. Apparently we should not expect any new product enhancements to make the modern man feel more fresh and vibrant, just a mysterious new look.

Evidently Old Spice considers itself in the same league as an automaker or a hotel that builds excitement for a makeover or a new design. But in the early morning, when I’m barely conscious of being awake, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to genuflect on a new look for a roll-on deodorant.

Someone please get Old Spice Guy on the case here.

Jermaine Dupri: musically social

Think the world already has enough social networks? Well, get ready for another one: Global 14, launched recently by Grammy-award winning producer Jermaine Dupri. Global 14 focuses on the interests of the rap and hip-hop communities. The site features 500 discussion groups on topics ranging from music to cooking. And Jermaine himself pledges to be an active enthusiast.

As he told AllHipHop.com, “People only know Facebook owner [Mark Zuckerberg] now because of his money. You wouldn’t have hung out with him before you knew what he did. I have an influence on producers, songwriters, artists and creative people in general.”

According to AllHipHop.com, the has secured 10,650 subscribers in less than three months and attracted interest from celebrities such as Nelly.

I recently joined Global 14 and find the site useful for making new friends among the rap/hip-hop world, hearing new music from lesser known artists, and staying on top of news relevant to the community. I need to contribute more wall posts, but so far I’m encouraged that people have responded to my own commentary to date.

Meantime, Jermaine remains connected with his fans and influencers in other ways, too, including a cool iPhone app that contains links to content he creates, such as videos, Twitter, Global 14, and iTunes.

I believe Global 14 is just a hint of what’s to come: more specialized social networks where members not only become friends but share new content such as original music.

I also believe we will see more celebrity-branded networks such as Jermaine’s, where a major brand name can exert his or her influence in a meaningful way.

Brands get animated

The Wall Street Journal recently discussed the popularity of sites such as GoAnimate and Xtranormal, which make it possible for anyone to create an animated movie. The sites supply the animated characters; all you need to provide is a script that you can type in real time to generate a movie. The sites are becoming more popular as content creation platforms for both consumers and businesses (Geico being a notable example).

I waved the WSJ article at my 9-year-old daughter, and in no time we were creating a movie together — “Tour of a Space Shuttle” — on Xtranormal. The process is as easy as the site claims (“you type something; we make into a movie”). My daughter (using my account) really created the movie all by herself.

Obviously you don’t need to have a child at home to embrace these kinds of platforms — just the willingness to be as open minded as one.

I encourage any marketing executive to check out the article and find out what brands are doing to create more playful experiences (for little cost).

All hail Imax

As an avid movie goer, I applaud the recent financial success of Imax — the company that offers movies on giant screens with overwhelming sound. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, within the past two years, box office sales for movies shown on Imax screens have more than tripled, and Imax says it will have 600 screens in operation by the end of 2011, up from 266 in 2005.

Why the growth? Because Imax fulfills a promise that 3D technology still struggles to deliver: make movies on the big screen more fun and immersive.

To me, 3D amounts to gilding a lilly. I don’t miss 3D when I see the same movie with and without it. Toy Story 3 comes to mind. Pixar technology is already stunning in 2D; the animation humanizes Woody and Buzz Light year. 3D on top of Pixar technology is like putting flashy hubcaps on a well designed Mercedes.

But Imax elevates two essential elements of the movie going experience — sight and sound — to a completely different level, something “immersive and massive” in the words of director J.J. Abrams. The world that James Cameron created for Avatar becomes otherwordly when experienced on an Imax screen that is 72 feet wide and 53 feet high, with uncompressed sound delivered in six channels.

The Rolling Stones are something more than a legendary rock band entertaining you from behind a celluloid screen when you see Mick Jagger and Keith Richards light up the Beacon Theatre in the Imax version of the concert film Shine a Light — they are a larger-than-life legendary rock band pulling you into an experience of their creation.

Perhaps 3D represents the long-term future of movies. If so, I hope 3D can become something more than tarted-up special effects and uncomfortable glasses that make you feel like a nerd when you wear them. Fortunately, the financial success of Imax suggests that massive screens and enhanced sound will be part of that future, too.

And that’s something I’m willing to pay extra for — ironically an affirmation of what movies on the big screen were supposed to have been all along until the advent of theaters with screens the size of postage stamps: an experience full of wonder that you cannot get at home.

Make unemployment work for you

Unemployment can be a time of self-renewal and discovery. During a recent break between jobs, I have bonded with my family, developed my blogging skills, stayed up to date on social media technologies, and helped others. In collaboration with Guy Kawasaki on the American Express Open Forum, I provide more insight into my unemployment journey. Here is the complete blog post. And a big shout-out to Guy for the opportunity.